The Stray is Doggedly Determined but Barks Too Softly
- Carrie Dedrick Family Editor, Crosswalk.com
- 2017 4 Oct
A true story about how one dog can touch the lives of many others, The Stray is a faith-based film that is appropriate for most families. Still, The Stray may not be the heartwarming tale that dog lovers are anticipating. 1 out of 5.
A family of five and their beloved stray dog Pluto move from Los Angeles to Colorado when the father's job as a movie executive takes too much of a toll on the family. Mitch and Michelle Davis' marriage is on the rocks, and Mitch's relationship with his son Christian is struggling even more. In a last-ditch effort to bond with his son, Mitch takes Christian on a backpacking trip through the Colorado mountains along with Pluto and two other boys. With stormy weather coming, the group makes camp for the night. But it's the wrong place at the wrong time. Their tent is struck by lightning, shocking all five of them.
The most fascinating thing about The Stray is that it's a true story, written and directed by the real Mitch Davis. In the movie, we see Mitch the character leave his job as a film executive to pursue his dream of writing. Since the real Mitch Davis wrote the screenplay for The Stray as well as owning a variety of other film credits such as Disney's The Other Side of Heaven, we can assume that this dream came true for him. Also, the depth to which the Davis family loved their dog is relatable to any dog lover. Families will appreciate that other than the dramatic events of the film, there is nothing really questionable here. It’s unusual today for a film in theaters to be so clean.
Though The Stray has an intriguing storyline, the film's budget may have been restrictive. The best actor in the film is probably Connor Corum, who plays 9-year-old Christian (faith-based film buffs will recognize Corum from Heaven Is for Real). Other than Corum, the acting is lacking from lesser-known Sarah Lancaster and Michael Cassidy. Cassidy, particularly, tends to over-act in parts.
Though I appreciated the genuineness of the film being written by the actual Mitch Davis, I found the script to be on the predictable side. Also, bizarre camera angles and fast moving cameras make The Stray feel like an indie film at times. The limited special effects (most notably the lightning strike) are clearly low-budget. Finally, though I am an adamant dog lover with a particular fondness for strays, I just didn't connect with Pluto. At the emotional climax of the film (which has to do with the dog), I didn't come close to shedding a tear. This was surprising, as other dog movies have turned me into a blubbering mess.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
This is clearly a faith-based film, written by a Christian. Prayer is a recurring theme in the film. Mitch tells his daughter to "pray for a stray" when Michelle says no to getting a dog. Michelle tells her older kids to say a prayer when the youngest child gets lost. Mitch tells his daughter to pray for the boys' camping trip and they will do the same for her so they are all protected. The same daughter says, "I think we should pray" when a storm hits. After lightning strikes the tent, the three boys pray, promising God that they will be good if Mitch lives. There is also a reference to heaven at a funeral, as Mitch declares that they will see the character being buried "on the other side."
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements including a perilous situation
- Language/Profanity: None, other than a character says, "bas-you-know-whats".
- Sexuality/Nudity: Character shown shirtless to reveal wounds.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: 2-year-old child gets lost, tent is struck by lightning, open wound on a character’s chest, that same character bleeds from the ear.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Dog movie lovers, people who enjoy faith-based films, families with older children (due to the dramatic nature of the film), people looking for a clean film.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Strict film critics; those looking for the next Oscar winner; people who don't love dogs; movie-goers who want a lot of fast-paced action.
Carrie Dedrick is the editor for Family content at Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: October 4, 2017
Image courtesy: ©KEBEntertainment